a queer ethics? not good/bad, but charming/tedious

As I was scrolling through my Tumblr feed this morning, I came across a quotation by Oscar Wilde, posted on the explore blog (edited by Maria Popova/Brain Pickings). Curious (as always!) to know where it came from, I clicked on Wilde’s name. Brain Pickings side project, literary jukebox popped up. Admittedly, I was initially skeptical. But, when I clicked on the record player and Wilde’s quotation was paired with Aimee Mann’s new song (which I really like), Charmer, I was intrigued.

I’m not sure if I’d like all of the match-ups as much as this, because I haven’t had a chance to review the literary jukebox archive. But, as I thought about the lyrics to Mann’s Charmer, I was struck by the challenge they offer/trouble they cause to how we make sense of Wilde’s quotation. I’m intrigued by his quotation, which comes from Lady Windmere’s Fan (according to Brain Pickings), so I’m planning to pick up Wilde at the library this afternoon.

Mann’s version of the charmer is fairly dark:

When you’re a charmer
People respond
They can’t see the hidden agenda
You got going on…

When you’re a charmer
The world applauds
They don’t know that secretly charmers
Feel like they’re frauds

Since I don’t know the context of Wilde’s quotation, I’m not sure what he means by his shift  away from good/bad to charming/tedious. Is he suggesting the foundation for a new (queer?) ethics? Denouncing ethics? Or, something else altogether? That exploration will have to wait until after I’ve read Wilde’s play.

For now, his quotation makes me think of some discussions within queer ethics about moving away from moral judgments of good/bad. I’m trying to remember some of these discussions right now. I wish I had my copy of Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness with meI’d like to put Wilde’s quotation and Mann’s song beside my post, On assholes, douche bags and bullshitters.

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